Scientists are Creating a New Diamond Predicted to be Harder Than a Jeweler’s Diamond

December 12, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

The diamond in an anvil the scientists used to make nano-sized Lonsdaleite.
Photo credit: Jamie Kidston, ANU

But you won’t find this diamond on any engagement rings — it will help cut through ultra-solid materials on mining sites.

Step aside, girls. Diamonds may now be a miner’s best friend, thanks to scientists from Australian National University (ANU).

Led by ANU professor Jodie Bradby, an international team is creating a hexagonal diamond, called Lonsdaleite, that’s predicted to be harder than a jeweler’s diamond. The researchers made nano-sized Lonsdaleite at 400 degrees Celsius (752 degrees Fahrenheit), effectively halving the temperature in which it can be formed in a lab. They’ve published their work in Scientific Reports.

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In nature, this kind of diamond can only be found at the site of meteorite impacts: Canyon Diablo in the United States, for instance.

"The hexagonal structure of this diamond's atoms makes it much harder than regular diamonds, which have a cubic structure,” Dr. Bradby explains in a press release.

If all goes according to plan, the researchers envision that these ultra-hard lab-made diamonds could be used to help cut through stubbornly solid materials at mining sites.

"This new diamond is not going to be on any engagement rings. You'll more likely find it on a mining site -- but I still think that diamonds are a scientist's best friend,” Dr. Bradby says. “Any time you need a super-hard material to cut something, this new diamond has the potential to do it more easily and more quickly.”

Interestingly, diamonds are proving themselves as useful tools in a number of areas. Researchers have shown that diamond defects could be used a new medium for long-term 3D data storage, and nano-sized diamond microdisks might lead to huge advances in quantum computing.

One thing’s for sure: diamonds are much more than a pretty face.

You might also be interested in: 8 of the World's Rarest Gemstones

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